Imagine you’ve just entered a car dealership. The salesperson greets you and then gives a brief speech about the dealership but then, they just disappear. You’re left wondering around the various cars with no idea which one is best suited for your needs. You feel a bit lost and you need some guidance. In the email marketing world, such guidance comes in the form of onboarding email series. 

“Every study that’s been done on email marketing has shown that increased frequency brings better results. If you’re only emailing somebody once a month, they’ll forget you.” – Ian Brodie

First impressions matter. Especially when it comes to dealing with customers. As email marketers, we get one shot at making a great first impression. We mustn’t waste it. There is a very narrow window to capture – and retain – a new customer’s interest before they are gone. Your first point of contact will set the expectations for the whole relationship. Therefore, how you go about it is of vital importance. Cue, onboarding email series. 

In this article, we’ll cover the following aspects of creating onboarding email series:

  1. Why is creating an onboarding email series important?
  2. How to create an effective onboarding email sequence?

Ready to dive in?

A lot of businesses send a welcome email to their customers. However, that’s where their email marketing efforts stop. Now, since we believe you want to have a highly successful business (who doesn’t?), our advice is to focus on developing and implementing an onboarding email series. 

Why? It’s really simple. The first month of a subscriber’s lifecycle (a.k.a onboarding phase) is the period for a business to make the first impression and establish the flow of the relationship. The emails you send during this time play a key role in transforming new subscribers into customers. However, according to stats, despite the fact that engagement rates are the highest when you first get touch with a customer, close to one-third of newly acquired subscribers ‘desert’ an email program exactly during that time. In order to ensure this doesn’t happen to you, we suggest creating an onboarding email series. 

The Importance of Onboarding Email Series

You’ve certainly heard the phrase ‘love at first sight’, right? Well, by creating an effective onboarding email series, you’ll ensure that “the love” will happen even at second sight; and why not at third sight, too. 

Having a welcome email is a great start. It can generate 4 times more opens, 5 times more clicks, 3 times more transactions and revenue per email as well as boost open rates with 50%, according to statistics. We aren’t really surprised by this data. After all, once a customer gives you their email address, it’s expected of you to send them a welcome email. 

However, is one email enough to retain a customer? We’ve observed that having – and sending –  an onboarding email series can increase revenue by 51% than just sending a single welcome email.

There are a few reasons for that – 

1) at the initial stage, customers are hungry for information and they are at their peak interest which, statistically, makes them more likely to open your emails; and
2) having an onboarding email series can be your safety net in the occurrence that the customer doesn’t engage with you at the beginning (the welcome email).

By expanding your email sequence to more than just the welcome email, you will present the customer with different options for them to interact and familiarise themselves with your business and products/services. An effective onboarding series will result in higher retention rates, greater revenue, an increase in the customer lifetime value and a decrease in unsubscribe rates.

But, how can businesses cut through all the clutter customers are getting in their inbox? How can they deliver a compelling onboarding email series that will convert? 

Before we divulge the ‘secrets’ to creating a successful onboarding series, we strongly advise you to choose an email marketing software that will help you tailor your emails based on different factors (incl. the stage of the life cycle funnel your customer’s in).

The Process Of Developing An Onboarding Email Series

Before even thinking about the design of your automated onboarding email campaigns, you should carefully outline their purpose. What do you want them to achieve? Do you want the sequence to attract new customers? Or, do you want to re-active inactive subscribers? Maybe, you just want to tell your subscribers about a brand new product/service they’ll be interested in? Whatever the goal is, the strategy must be thought through and executed perfectly.

Now, let’s go over a few guidelines that will help you create and implement engaging, impactful onboarding email series that will certainly drive results – 

1) Craft the perfect welcome email

Yes, we did say that only a welcome email isn’t enough. However, you can’t have an onboarding sequence without one. Therefore, it’s of vital importance to create an impactful welcome email – which should be sent immediately after a customer subscribes – and show your gratitude to the subscriber for signing up. 

Emphasise on the benefits the customer will get from choosing you. Outline what information they will be getting in the future. Ah, it’s essential to realise that your welcome email has nothing to do with the verification (or confirmation) email. Each one serves a different purpose. Verification emails are important for the health of your email lists (and to keep you on the right side of data protection laws), whilst the welcome emails express your thankfulness and outline the next steps.

Lastly, make sure that your call-to-action (CTA) is presented clearly. Since this is the first email the customer receives from you, try to limit your CTAs to one main one per email. If you overwhelm the customer the first time, you’ll force them to lose interest; and consequently, either ignore your future emails or worse, unsubscribe from your correspondence altogether.  However, you can increase the number of CTAs as the onboarding series continues.

2) Enlighten your subscribers with personalised emails

First and foremost, you should always remember that no two customers are the same. With that said, it’s essential for businesses to tailor personalised onboarding email campaigns from the subject line through the email copy to the end goal it strives to achieve. 

Forget the annoyingly boring “Welcome to Company X, Y, Z” subject lines and even more maddening traditional email copy. Craft the subject line and content so it directly relates to the action you want your customers to take.

Now that the welcome message is out the digital door, you can follow it up with a series of different automated emails triggered based on the subscribers’ actions/behaviour. For example: if the recipient opened the email that action will trigger an additional email message that will introduce the customer to your brand and all there is for you to offer them – free shipping, 24/7 customer service support, special offers, a chance to earn rewards, blog content, etc. 

However, keep in mind that the primary goal of these additional messages in your onboarding emails series is to educate the customer; as well as, make their experience not only meaningful but also beneficial.

3) Always remember the alternative (ALT) text

Most of the time, businesses include images to their email campaigns. However, there is a possibility that some email clients can’t display those images. Therefore, you need to make sure you have ALT text in place. By implementing this practice, which is becoming a standard for most businesses, you’re making sure that even your images might not be displayed, the customer will have some context as to what the image is. It is also important to add ALT text as that is what visual readers use for any visually impaired customers.

If you don’t include ALT text to your images – and they are not displayed for some reason –  then there is a high chance your recipients will only see a clutter of empty squares. That in itself will result in less (or no) engagement and can potentially cost you a new subscriber. Therefore, if you don’t plan on providing additional value to your images with ALT text, we suggest you forgo adding any to your onboarding emails.

4) Stop, collaborate and listen to your customers

By implementing onboarding email series in your email marketing strategy, you have the opportunity to collect more information about the customer. Instead of thinking about what they’re interested in or playing the “guessing game”, just ask them about their preferences. For example: what topics they are interested in; how often they want to hear from you; where are they located; how ‘young’ they are, etc.

All of this data will help you craft not only more personalised future email messages and relevant content, but also it’ll demonstrate your appreciation for the customer. It will also showcase that you value them. After all, if you know someone wants your opinion – and asks for it – wouldn’t you be more interested in engaging with them?

5) Keep it simple and fun, don’t overwhelm customers and create a great experience

When creating an onboarding email series, it’s important to remember that less is more. Your emails don’t have to be extremely short, neither do they have to be excruciatingly long. Not do they need to be filled with images and GIFs. As long as you make the message concise and easily digestible with eye-catching visuals and sophisticated CTAs, the customer won’t get annoyed and unsubscribe.

Making your onboarding emails interactive – with some how-to videos, tutorials, polls or quizzes – will also ensure the whole process is fun. It will encourage subscribers to engage more as well as getting them excited about your brand.

An important thing to remember is to never, ever bombard new subscribers with too many email messages. Especially, immediately after they’ve signed up. Despite the number of messages you have in your onboarding email series, we advise you to hold off on sending additional emails (if the whole process is automated – which professional ESPs such as EmailOut offer, you might be required to make some adjustments to the triggers you’ve set up).

Lastly, one of the greatest benefits of having an onboarding series is the ability to customise your subscriber’s journey step by step. Depending on where you want to take them, of course. By combining all of the guidelines we’ve divulged, you will be able to take your new customers on an incredible journey and give them exactly what they want, when they want it.

6) Test, test, test and optimise

EmailOut is a big fan of testing and a strong believer that through testing businesses can determine what’s the best strategy and approach for their specific audience.

Before you set up your automated onboarding email series, you should test everything – from subject lines and email copy to timing. With 42% of emails being opened on a mobile device, running A/B tests is key. You will get actionable results which will help you optimise (and improve) your onboarding emails not only for desktop but mobile as well. Additionally, you will achieve better results as well as long-term success.

Final Thoughts

One of the biggest fallacies in regards to building an onboarding email series is that it takes too much time. Well, in our experience, creating an onboarding series is no harder than creating a normal email marketing campaign. You decide on the series length, which sets the email frequency expectations then you decide on the content; and finally, test, test, test.

As much as you might dread starting an onboarding email series, you don’t have to. Do you want to know the “secret” as to why you should find it daunting? It’s simple. You can always experiment and change the sequence. You can add steps, remove steps, you can do whatever you want to in order to achieve the desired results.

Most importantly, any and all new subscribers have signed up to your email list(s) for a reason. Being it because they are genuinely interested in your brand or because they trust you enough to welcome you to their inbox (which speaks volumes nowadays). Take advantage of their invitation. 

With a strategically designed onboarding email series, you will not only improve your subscribers’ engagement and loyalty but also decrease complaint rates, improve deliverability and ultimately increase your revenue. Now is your time to shine. Go for it.

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